• Atrial Fibrillation Identification Initiative

    Colleen Lindholm | August 16, 2012

    Camrose Primary Care Network teams up with Covenant Health St. Mary’s Hospital to launch Atrial Fibrillation Identification Initiative

    CAMROSE—A proactive approach in the prevention of strokes is the focus of a new collaborative program in Camrose. The Heart and Stroke Clinic at St. Mary’s Hospital and the Camrose Primary Care Network (PCN) recently partnered to develop a program to screen for individuals with Atrial Fibrillation—otherwise known as an irregular heart rhythm that may lead to stroke.  

    Colleen McKinstry, Clinical Manager Camrose PCN, says “Simply performing a 60 second pulse check on a patient already sitting in our clinic has the potential to yield far-reaching results. If a patient known to be at risk is given the option of treatment to prevent a stroke, they will no doubt be in favour of it.”

    The initiative was launched early July and is underway at both St. Mary’s Emergency Room and the Camrose PCN Edgeworth Center Clinic. The program has already proven successful with positively identifying one to two people per day with an irregular heart rhythm. The procedure is performed on all patients over the age of 18. St. Mary’s is the first acute care emergency room in Alberta to launch an Atrial Fibrillation (AF) Identification initiative in partnership with a PCN.

    The purpose of this project is to be proactive in the prevention of strokes in patients who are identified as having previously undiagnosed AF—a risk factor that increases the chance of having a stroke by three to five times. This preventative care decreases the cost to the healthcare system and saves lives, as stroke prevention is simpler and less expensive than post-stroke hospital care.

    Cheryl King, Stroke Team Clinical Lead, sees the potential in this initiative spreading. “We started this initiative in emergency, and the next step is to spread it throughout the hospital. We hope to share our successes so that this initiative will become a provincial standard of care for all health care settings,” says Cheryl.  

    Trained healthcare providers at the PCN and the hospital emergency room perform a sixty-second pulse check and follow an algorithm to determine whether the patient will need further testing to rule out AF. If the patient is noted to have an irregular pulse, then a simple test measuring the electrical activity of the heart will be performed. A follow-up phone call is made by the SMH Heart and Stroke Clinic team to every positively-identified patient for tracking and follow-up care purposes.  Once the process is completed, the patient’s family doctor will then continue to provide the most appropriate treatment for that individual patient.

    Michelle Bowman, Nurse Lead, Chronic Disease Management at the PCN agrees prevention is significant in an individual’s approach to their health. “Stroke prevention is a key component of our work at the PCN. Through the simplest of means, a 60 second pulse check, we could discover a heart rhythm that could lead to someone potentially having a stroke. If an irregular heart rate is discovered, an easy process of further investigation is triggered and a treatment plan followed. It is very proactive and very exciting to be part of.”


    The Camrose Primary Care Network consists of four (4) family practice clinics in Camrose and surrounding area with 30 participating family doctors serving over 25,000 Albertans.  The PCN is committed to a cooperative approach to your general primary care, utilizing a professional multidisciplinary team working together for your health care plan. This is a grassroots approach, meaning that services are developed by physicians and healthcare providers who work in your community and understand your needs.

    Covenant Health is Canada's largest Catholic health care organization with over 14,000 physicians, employees and volunteers serving in 12 communities across Alberta. A major provider in Alberta's integrated health system, Covenant Health works with Alberta Health Services and community partners to positively influence the health of Albertans through a broad range of programs and services.

    Alberta Health Services is the provincial health authority responsible for planning and delivering health supports and services for more than 3.7 million adults and children living in Alberta. Its mission is to provide a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainable for all Albertans.


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